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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge - Delay Repay 15 - 19 June 2019

What could you do with 15 minutes? Boil a few eggs? Bath the children? Start the dinner? As we all fill our lives more and more, those minutes matter. Sadly, too often, they are wasted by events we can’t control. Like delays.

For those of us who travel by train, they’re all too common. That’s why I’m pleased that even though the new franchise isn’t starting yet, we’re getting the Delay Repay 15 brought in. 

That will help many of us and, I hope, focus minds in our rail companies. Because we need the trains to work. They’re not a luxury, and though they’ve got better in recent years - on some lines - they aren’t exactly how I would choose to spend my mornings and evenings. Instead they are simply the quickest, or only, way of getting to work.

But they’re not cheap. Costing a small fortune, they eat into our budget and our lives. That’s why we need them to be on time. Southeastern, sadly, has too many services delayed or cancelled every day. Recently it looked like there was a ray of sunshine, as the new franchise should have started, but just like with the weather recently, our hopes were dashed, and the rain came back. To my frustration, the Transport Minister has still not decided which company to award this to. They should have started last year, but we still don’t know who it will be.

But this change in the delay repay scheme is welcome. Before now, it has been a 30-minute cut off, but that wasn’t great for us in Tonbridge. With average commuter train times for London around 43 minutes, 30 minutes almost doubled the journey time, more often, delays were of 15 or 20 minutes but they didn’t count. 

That is why I asked the Rail Minister to change the policy and start the 15-minute compensation scheme now, instead of when the new franchise began. I am delighted he has done it, and the scheme will now begin in autumn. So, by the time the leaves start to fall and delays become more common, we will have a scheme that works for us, the passengers. We will also get compensation when there are widespread issues along the track, like flooding experienced last week in Orpington, which meant that trains were delayed outside of Southeastern’s control.

In a perfect world trains wouldn’t be delayed at all and we wouldn’t need to change the policy. And this policy won’t work alone. We need investment in our railways and a commitment to cooperation so that we improve all our transport, not just the trains. But there is no quick fix. So, in the meantime, I hope that the introduction of the 15-minute delay repay will make a big difference to commuters.

Georgie Welford